Tom Nurmi’s Magnificent Decay: Melville and Ecology is an exemplary work of environmental humanities. It puts Herman Melville’s writing in dialogue with environmental science in three time frames: that of his own time, that of the science associated with the rise of “ecology” in the later nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and that of the present-day science and theory of the Anthropocene. The book’s central claim is that Melville’s literary works explore the notion of an interconnected planetary experience in which humans cannot be separated from the mineral, plants and fungi, and even atmospheric components and processes on Earth. Although steeped in science and theory, Nurmi’s readings pay close attention to literary form, drawing attention to parallels between Melville’s distinctive style and the environmental processes with which his work engages. Although Magnificent Decay does not center on Melville’s most famous works and thus might seem aimed primarily at Melville specialists, I...
Review: Magnificent Decay: Melville and Ecology, by Tom Nurmi
John Evelev is Professor of English at the University of Missouri. He is the author of Tolerable Entertainment: Melville and Professionalism in Antebellum New York (2007) and Picturesque Literature and the Transformation of the American Landscape,1835–1874 (2021).
John Evelev; Review: Magnificent Decay: Melville and Ecology, by Tom Nurmi. Nineteenth-Century Literature 1 March 2023; 77 (4): 256–260. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ncl.2023.77.4.256
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